New poems by Norman Fischer

Norman Fischer.

Editorial note: Jacket2 is very happy to present this portfolio of eleven new poems by Norman Fischer, which accompanies Zen Monster editor Brian Unger’s essay “Norman Fischer: A ‘test case for being.’”  Fischer was also the subject of PoemTalk #38, for which host Al Filreis was joined by Linh Dinh, Julia Bloch, and Frank Sherlock. — Michael S. Hennessey


Test Case

It’s quiet or in the quiet
Where the tongues of disjunction lick the arms of affection
And one plus one’s not two

It doesn’t follow from this …

All the strange words summon him
The strange arms embrace him
In the ever-persistent end-game

Where world’s objects pretend to lurk
They are not there

My hard-earned cash
Your vaunted self-esteem —
Halted, halted

Not a psychological fact,
This love like syrup poured upon a willing head
In a storm

In its wake. What pleasure is there
In simple deconstruction
Of all I think, feel

Let thought’s river flow
Uncanny occurrence
Test case for being




Odysseus Speaks

I sail to keep from crying
Or cry to keep from sailing
Truth is a lie, I lie
To find some truth

Memory is song: it works
By song, otherwise how re-
Member anything from within
Memory’s myth (the sirens know this)

The gods are memory’s memory
And I can’t live a single day
Without their song that means
Something but what

I speak to keep from sailing, crying,
Speak to lie to find some truth
Not making a quiddity, no word
Process but a meaningful, memorable,

Exhale, then an inhale,
Exhale, after which
Words pour forth, my darling lies
My oars, my foment





What are we trying to get at here?
Would you hold that up so I can see it?

In remembrance of things
That are here in front of us
Looking right at us

In this case they remain themselves

Talking within earshot
Hydrants and honeysuckle,
Enjambed declensions

In the house, the garden
Where one belongs, place
Made of itself, “that was an experience,

I experienced it” and down you go,
Buried in time, or over and out,
Why pretend or boast?

She shot a look at him,
Determined to be seen, to be correct in that,
Determined analytically, crossing out

The parts that “don’t fit”
And fitting them in, they are not
Crossed out

In what vocabulary
Do I see the hawk
Shrug her massive shoulders

Do I see a blackbird,
Wing as whisper, fall
Toward roof-edge

To soar then set upon
The grass of the earth

Presence ensconced in words,
Demanded, scored,
Delivered as promised

Isn’t the world promising, green
Again, so why say anything?

I am quiet, still,
I persist
As the world ends

Together in that case
And tearing each other
Apart as we would want

Inwardness commences
It takes two to create life, it scares us,
We want to get rid of it altogether

Forgive us who know not what we do




And so to leave with a noteworthy swagger’s
Not lexically popular but anyhow’s an improvement over rote
Possibilities, this little cute pet person one is and used to be,
Like lint or steam or a curtsy for the queen
Something commonplace and polite
That ends when the many run amok convinced
The world was made for them that they seize it with their meat hooks like a chop
Purring all the while like a cat, cooing crooner lyrics
That saturate the airways and the waves
Till storms’ peaks droop over the whole show
Beginning at the beginning, just between the times of hope
That got cast out toward the edges of the lawn
Like lariats at a bar mitzvah
Or confetti at a masquerade ball —

Still, hope or hoop manages to compute
On the grand mathematical scales
As on the ones that obscure always
The eyes




Nothing Matters

Nothing matters
But the quality
Of the affection
In the end
Nothing matters

But the quality
Of the affection, how
Smooth, how
Nothing matters

But the quality
At the end of
The affection, how it
Wears, its weal,
Nothing matters

But the survival
Of the affection
Rough or smooth
If it is possible
In the end

Nothing matters
But affection
One cannot speak it
One cannot speak of it
In the end

Did you expect
To go on
Forever, that we would
Go on forever
That there would be

No end to us
Our life here
As there’s an end
To anything
In the quality

Of the affection
Find the end
In the beginning
Savor that, its force
A satisfactory completion

Woe to them
That conquer with armies
Whose only right is might




Soap, Thyme, and Brie

I am human, I ring the bell
Behind the grocery or appliance store
Behind the bank or big box
Where the reprimanded people lurk

Was a complaint lodged against me?
With consequences to be meted out?
Truncating time so it didn’t count?
Confounding place so it didn’t sound?

The hyena calmly counting cactus stalks
On an abacus, someone commented that
“That’s the way it’s done around here”
But there was no sense that this was so

The hyena was simply improvising
Having been a bassoon in a previous life
Where did these various life forms
That came forth then come forth from?

Why, from inside (if there is an inside
Inside this contraption) does it all look
So different, so muffled and smoky
As if seen from a precipice in a dream?

These are critical categories in the shade
Echoes or murmurs in the sea-foam haze
The voyage out and no
Voyage back

Which is tougher
Where the band plays on
The march goes forth
Evoking ancient tales

What’s the motivation, the aura?
As we know, have been instructed,
That line of silent trees
Bears the burden forward

The need to be
Such as it is




Expensive Arrangements

It is indicative of the loose arrangements
That apply in this place

That those who pose as bosses
Don’t really know any better

And all the sophisticated prototypes
Have lately been misconstrued — all about

Themselves they heap their ribbons
And these flow on as if crystalline into the bare and tidy

Nights that give us all pause
And not a little glow, so that our friends

Can better see us as we leave
In a series of city blocks, arranged like long pegs

In baize drawers one loses track too quickly
Of the sense of things

The purpose for which this little hunting party
Has been organized

Which is why the others
Long for such clarified sentences

They want the clear demarcations
That money as money, hefty money,

Would provide and do not see the colorists
Are making themselves out to be

Anything but what they are, as if the shapes we see
Were the shapes they are, and they are not

But it’s impossible to tell —
If you stretch this cloth any tighter

I think surely your bell will crack
And where would any of us be at that point

Other than East of here
In the other language we spoke

Before we knew then what we know now
In a new convention

As clear as anything is
Despite all the gasses




If You Say So

Notorious urges urge us on to denials
But what’s the difference? Mere taste?
But what does one taste and why does one stand for it

Or stand in for it, for something
Or anything else
Does a word stand in for

What the word stands for and how dare a word
Stand if only on its own steam, on my two feet
Dearer by far, a sensation of balance and deterioration

Only once I say so to myself
So I am more humble
In recognition of the limits of knowledge

I’m continually impressed
By the ever-advancing range
Of my stupidity, how even what’s plain as day

As the nose on my face
Remains blind to me, won’t receive me
For all my filial chattering

What could this be, an age of huts,
Era of darkness even in midst of such
Information showers, such illuminating facts

I’m unsure of any delinquency on my part
For I have always been here as far as I am concerned




A Flatter Form of Research

What can be seen, which means what
You or I can say we see can’t be the limit
Or the norm of what may be as they say
“Out there” which I guess means it’s not me
Or you and we are not it which does leave us rather
High and dry and this is not a matter of opinion

Ah art, etc, to be improvised upon, a new-fangled form
Of investigation — one wants description
For it, the thing we are, the life, one wants verification
Of the pedigree but then that will never work
Will it, for clouds are only such in the world we know
Never the world beyond that world, the world
That makes the world a world by virtue of what’s not in it
Or of it or round it so smooth
It all comes down to a single stone
In the eye of the beholder

Now we have a brain over here
And over there a jar of water
Let us mix the two and observe the action
See it glisten and dissolve
Into rancor or desire for one wants
To be more than that — whatever that ever is
A pushing toward a limit which can’t be transgressed
Even on pain of nothing




Rugged Individualism

Here’s a dollar amount, a little regular parcel
To be pieced out into irregulars, militias
For the protection of the like-minded, the family

It must mean identity, “A is A, it is not B”
For how could “B” be “A” unless we decide to say so
It is not logical nor is it ordinary, it is precisely

Extraordinary that I am not I I am you or otherwise
The reverse would be true, see the terms unglue
Themselves even as we speak, as they tighten,

So that we never know who speaks or why
And can’t know how to listen, what to listen for
And therefore can’t interpret

But only fall slowly and desperately asleep
As did our ancestors
The minions of them that ate each other as they

Rolled their “r’s” to sound Irish or English or Welch
Lets eat our words like butter
There’s nothing dim about it, and this page isn’t full

Of things, it’s empty of them, all of them,
Stacks and racks and piles of them
I’m speaking of dishes, flatware, and enamel serving ware

The heft of it, the sound it makes
When shattering





Monday — a time to find one’s double
Tuesday — a dream of fire
Wednesday — a discussion of possibilities
Thursday — all political arrangements flap in shattered daylight by now
Friday — already glimpsing an end
Saturday- commanded, meaning disclosed
Sunday — harsh desert heat makes the mind range or race, signifying nothing

Tuesday — winter has not arrived
Wednesday — a flash of innovation around the eyes
Thursday — already by now thinking of doom
Friday — nearly finished, time to shop
Saturday — commanded, meaning not to be depicted in any way
Sunday — outside all available channels
Monday — because of crimes

Wednesday — absolutely no rhythm
Thursday — surprising that you’d like this
Friday — already by now a sense that the wool’s being pulled over your eyes
Saturday — commanded, meaning absolutely still
Sunday — disasters come in pairs
Monday — somehow you deserve this
Tuesday — so many fingers it’s impossible not to take one in them and so be

Thursday — heartache
Friday — considering the origins and the timetables
Saturday — commanded, being inserted anyway outside it all nowhere
Sunday — a confusion of identity swirling around all that
Monday — bearing the weight of being, which is always lonely
Tuesday — two planets, side by side in the dark night
Wednesday — hate, fate, or debate

Friday — in my end is my beginning
Saturday — commanded, furiously
Sunday — hardly able to proceed
Monday — debated, but without any means to reach provisional conclusions
Tuesday — termination
Wednesday — entirely lacking any bones
Thursday — ending in midstream

Saturday — commanded, insatiably
Sunday — proceeding according to determinations
Monday — having then to make something so that something else can go on
Tuesday — stars as they are in the sky
Wednesday — underlying sound of bells like a breakwater
Thursday — heartfelt fears causing you to back away and remain apart
Friday — straining for the ever-present beginning

Sunday — time could be arranged in any way
Monday — music has no structure
Tuesday — disdainful
Wednesday — overreaching
Thursday — orchid
Friday — sorrow
Saturday — commanded